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PEOTONE, Ill. – A large and hard to find United Motors Service oval neon sign, only rated 7.9 out of 10 for condition but still coveted by collectors for its rarity, sold for $6,325 at a Fall petroliana and advertising auction held Oct. 14, 2011 by Matthews Auctions, LLC. The sale was held the day before the semiannual Chicagoland Petroliana & Advertising Show in Peotone, Ill.
The single-sided porcelain sign, measuring 42 inches by 72 inches, had its share of flaws. The blue was milky and it had chips around the mount holes and holes in the neon. But its scarcity, combined with the fact that the neon made it look like the wheels were spinning, was just too much for the bidders who competed for it. The sign was the top lot of the 475 items sold.
Around 150 people attended the auction in person, while another 250 bidders registered online through Proxibid.com (accounting for a 34 percent sell-through). Phone and absentee bids were also accepted. Matthews Auctions, LLC has been staging auctions prior to the spring and fall Peotone shows for years, and they have consistently been well-attended and spirited events.
“We had a good bidding crowd, and better merchandise was fetching 5 percent more than I was expecting,” said Dan Matthews of Matthews Auctions, LLC. “What made this auction such a success was the fact that we had an interesting mix of items. Usually we feature 85 percent gas station collectibles, but this sale had country store collectibles and other unique and rare items.”
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
A USL Batteries single-sided porcelain self-framed sign (“Economical, Dependable”), 17 inches by 60 inches, rated 9 and with excellent color and gloss but with some bubbles in the paint, brought $3,850; and a rare Marathon Gas single-sided porcelain die-cut embossed neon sign (“Best in the Long Run”), with the running man logo, went for a surprisingly low $3,740.
Two lots sold for identical prices of $3,025 each. The first was a Case Quality Machine single-sided tin reflective painted sign (“For Profitable Farming”), with Old Abe logo and rated 8.5 for condition. The other was a Favorite Stoves and Ranges double-sided porcelain sign (“Best in the World”), both sides rated 9.5, in excellent condition and with great gloss and color.
An original and fragile Lucky Strike Cigarettes wood and cardboard counter-top display with four old-style packs and six new-style green packs, rated 9, with minor wear around the edges, coasted to $2,860; and a Mobiloil Socony double-sided porcelain five-point shield, with the iconic Mobil Pegasus graphic and measuring 32 inches by 32 inches, rated 9, rose to $2,750.
An Atlantic Gasoline double-sided porcelain curb sign with Ethyl logo, in a stand and strap base, 30 inches in diameter and both sides rated 9 out of 10 for condition, changed hands for $2,200; and an AC Spark Plugs Cleaning Station tin flange sign with the familiar Sparky logo, 15 inches by 11 inches, both sides rated 8.75 with a little rust here and there, hit $1,265.
A Holley Carburetor Company Automotive Accessories light counter-top display, rated 9 and in great shape, breezed to $1,045; an Oakwood Taxi Company lighted counter-top display (“All 7-Passenger Packards – No Cheaper Rates in Town”), rated 9, garnered $880; and a “Buy on Universal Credit” (Ford cars and trucks, Lincoln, Zephyr and Mercury 8 ) lighted counter-top reverse painted display, fully illuminated and in great shape, 9 inches by 20 inches, made $880.
Rounding out the day’s top lots, a Motorola Auto Radio neon and lighted sign with reverse painted bottom panel, in working order and rated 8.9, 12 inches by 26 inches, demanded $880; and a rare die-cast aluminum Dino, marked “Colonial Hites, West Cola, S.C.”, rated 9 and once used as a decoration on the outside of a gas station, went to a determined bidder for $550.
Beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 2, and on the first Wednesday of each month through the winter, Matthews Auctions, LLC will conduct online and absentee petroliana and advertising auctions, at the firm’s gallery facility in Nokomis, Ill., starting at 4 p.m. (CST). Each auction will feature 300-400 lots of high quality merchandise. There will be no live audience at these sales.
On Saturday, Nov. 26, Matthews Auctions, LLC will hold an auction in Raymond, Ill., at the gallery of Gavin Pope Auction, with whom Matthews Auctions, LLC often partners. Offered will be hundreds of lots of petroliana, automobilia, country store collectibles and antiques. The sale will begin promptly at 10 a.m. (CST) and will be held at 823 North Bannon in Raymond, Ill.
Dan Matthews recently completed writing a book about petroliana, titled The Fine Art of Collecting and Displaying Petroliana.
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